Facing opposition to one-way traffic plan, Marietta reconsiders

Residents, business owners spoke to the City Council Tuesday, but a final decision is postponed

Marietta was preparing to transform a pair of streets that run off Marietta Square into one-way routes. But city leaders reversed course earlier this month, deciding to revisit last year’s decision amid a campaign from residents and motorists who want to nix the one-way streets.

And when citizens on both sides of the issue converged at City Hall on Tuesday evening, safety concerns clashed against business interests. City leaders are expected to make a final decision next month.

Marietta councilmembers heard 40 minutes of mixed opinions on the possibility of Lawrence Street and Washington Avenue becoming one-way.

A standing-room crowd of nearly 150 residents and business leaders packed into council chambers for the special meeting.

Attorney Steve Woodman, whose law firm along Lawrence Street sits just feet from City Hall, told councilmembers there are 40 businesses situated in the “longtime business thoroughfare.” He sent city officials an opposition petition signed by 213 people who live and work in the corridor.

“Residents have told me they don’t don’t want any more one-way streets,” Woodman said. “The problem is illustrated by the old saying, ‘You can’t get there from here.’”

Proponents of the idea argued that safety trumps convenience. They said residential roads like Washington Avenue have become “cut throughs” motorists use to avoid busier commercial arteries. Meanwhile, the streets are too narrow for UPS, FedEx and Amazon delivery trucks that make regularly deliveries along the stretch.

Other residents pointed out that City Council already went through the process of approving the one-way streets.

“The results are in. You voted on it,” Donald Barth said, urging council to stick by their decision. “Don’t tell me you changed your mind because the pressure is too high. Move forward with the decision that you made.”

Lanes of travel along Lawrence and Washington have become a contentious topic of controversy in Marietta since Sept. 9 when councilmembers voted to make both thoroughfares one-way along a narrow stretch between Cole and Fairground streets. The plan was to make Lawrence Street flow westbound toward Cole Street while funneling Washington Avenue’s traffic east.

Both streets, which are two-way for now, include a mix of office fronts and single-family homes. The city hoped that changing them to one-way routes would reduce speeds, improve traffic flow and make both roads safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

City crews had begun restriping both roads and were awaiting one-way signage before converting the streets. During a May 12 meeting, City Council voted unanimously to put the brakes on those plans until Tuesday night’s public hearing.

It was a stay largely motivated by backlash from the business owners who say closing the roads off to two-way traffic could hurt their offices and boutiques.

At Tuesday’s special meeting to hear public comments, 13 people testified, five in favor of the one-way plans and eight against. But sentiments in the room seemed to be evenly split.

City Council took no action Tuesday. The proposed traffic plan will go back to the Marietta’s Public Works committee. City Council is expected to make a decision June 9.

“Will we save face or about face?” Mayor Steve Tumlin said at the close of Tuesday’s hearing.